Ted Shaffrey / AP
Criminalized by the coronavirus pandemic last year, Macy’s Thanksgiving parade returns in full on Thursday, but with caution.
Balloons, floats, marching bands, clowns and performers – and, of course, Santa Claus – will once again cross 2 1/2 miles of Manhattan streets, instead of being confined to a block or sometimes pre-registered last year. The parade begins at 9 a.m. ET.
Spectators, excluded in 2020, can again line up on the course. Bands from high schools and universities across the country have been invited to return to the programming; most of last year’s performers were based locally to reduce travel. The giant balloons, attached to vehicles last year, collect their costumed handlers.
“Last year was obviously symbolic. It wasn’t all we would have liked to see in a parade, but they kept it going,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference Wednesday. “This year, the parade is back at full strength.”
“It will be a great sign of our rebirth,” he added.
The Thanksgiving Parade is the latest US holiday event to make a comeback, as vaccinations, familiarity, and sheer frustration have made officials and some of the public more comfortable with large gatherings in the midst of the current pandemic.
Yet security measures continue. Parade staff and volunteers should be vaccinated against COVID-19 and wear masks, although some singers and performers may get rid of them. There is no vaccination requirement for spectators, but Macy’s encourages them to cover their faces. A popular pre-parade show – the inflating of giant balloons – was limited to vaccinated viewers.
The Thanksgiving event also comes days after an SUV driver drove through a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee, killing six people and injuring more than 60. Authorities said the driver, who was charged of intentional homicide, walked away from the police after a domestic dispute.
De Blasio said on Wednesday that there was no credible and specific threat to the Thanksgiving parade, but that the New York Police Department’s security measures would be extended, as usual.
“I am very confident in what the NYPD has prepared to keep everyone safe tomorrow,” he said.
Thousands of police officers are assigned to the parade route, from the streets to the roofs. Cars are stranded on the parade route with garbage trucks filled with sand, other heavy vehicles and around 360,000 pounds (163,000 kilograms) of concrete barriers.
Bomb detection dogs, bomb squad officers, heavy weapons teams, radiation and chemical sensors and more than 300 additional cameras are also being dispatched to the parade route, the anti-war chief said. NYPD Terrorism, Martine Materasso.
Inside the barricades, the parade has about 8,000 participants, four dozen balloons of different sizes and two dozen floats.
New balloon giants joining the lineup include Netflix series lead character “Ada Twist, Scientist”; Pokémon characters Pikachu and Eevee on a sled (Pikachu has appeared in various forms before) and Grogu, aka “Baby Yoda”, from the TV show “The Mandalorian”. New tanks come from entities ranging from condiment maker Heinz and NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service to the Louisiana Board of Tourism.
Artists and celebrities include Carrie Underwood, Jon Batiste, Nelly, Kelly Rowland, Miss America Camille Schrier, the group Foreigner and many more. Several Broadway musical actors and the Radio City Rockettes are also scheduled to perform.